Monday, January 27, 2014

Tutoring Works, But We Need More Data!

Interesting piece in the NYT today about intensive small group tutoring. Evidently the discovery is that intensive tutoring helps kids raise test scores and meet other indicators of being on track to graduate.

I didn't realize there was still a question about this. But I'm glad it's borne out in research that tutoring, extra time, and extra attention can help the kids who need the most help, just as it can help the kids who already have everything.

What I like about this study, and about the idea of intense small group tutoring, is that it is taking place inside a neighborhood school with the kids who need it the most; these are kids who are likely to be counseled/pushed/negative-messaged out of charter schools or whose families don't have the time or wherewithal to go through the charter--magnet--selective enrollment gauntlet that the city school system has pretzeled itself into.

The tutoring is expensive, and these kids are presumably part of the 25% that Rahm Emanuel told Karen Lewis "aren't going to amount to anything," so it comes as no surprise to me that the obvious benefits of the program are met with skepticism from our mayor:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago has said that if the program continues to generate results, he hopes to extend the tutoring and counseling to more schools. “When you close the achievement gap that significantly you have to pay attention,” he said.
Contrast that hesitation with the zeal for chartering-for-the-sake-of-chartering, a phenomenon that has done nothing but increase the white/black achievement gap in this very city going all the way back to Arne Duncan's first sinecure here. Remember---- the whole Rauner/Emanuel underlying idea is that these kids are someone else's problem and that schools can be successful if they're privatized and free from kids like these.

Anyway,  the guy running the program, Jens Ludwig, from the U of C, makes an observation in this article that I can't say I've observed myself:

“So many people now are convinced that results like this aren’t possible at all for disadvantaged teens,” Professor Ludwig said. “More and more people are of the view that you’ve got to reach poor kids by age 6, or it’s too late and the effects of entrenched poverty are already too profound.”

Unless he's talking about the mayor, I don't know who he's talking about. The people I know that point out the causal relationship between poverty and low academic achievement are all pointing out that the kids who need the most tend to get the least, and that they need more, like this very program, rather than being scattered hither and yon in and out of charter schools or underserved in the destabilized, resource-stripped neighborhood schools. Honestly, I've not seen one person in the mainstream discussion of what works in urban education say that you can't overcome the impacts of poverty.  It's a straw man.  It's something Robin Steans, for example, would say.  Unless I'm just missing a lot of blog posts somewhere.

It's a good article. It's a good study, and a good program.

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